Tiny island off Florida’s coast offers super-sized fun!
One of the concerns when taking trips with family or friends is finding a destination that will keep different types of travelers engaged. Having several options in one place makes Captiva Island an ideal choice for an off the beaten path experience. This 4-mile strip of land an hour from the Fort Myers, Florida, airport is home to the South Seas Island Resort, a designated wildlife sanctuary and a convenient headquarters for a getaway to the area’s clear, green waters and balmy breezes.
Here’s how we meshed the let’s do itinerary with the let’s-not-do anything agenda: The energetic among us opted for an 8 a.m. yoga class on the resort’s lawn, a swath of open space facing Pine Island Sound where the sun rises just minutes before the stretching begins. Admittedly, some of us were thinking more about the resort’s buffet breakfast than perfect warrior pose, but those daydreams were fulfilled when we met up with the sleepyheads who joined in for an array of morning delicacies. Then the paths parted: The beach crowd headed to lounge chairs under big umbrellas on the resort’s private beach, while the let’s-go group boarded a motorized catamaran for a tour of the area by sea. Long-time resident boat guides regaled passengers with tales of a 1921 hurricane that wiped out a bridge and created a connection between the inlet and the Gulf of Mexico and pointed out expansive private homes built on spits of land so remote that the only power sources are rooftop solar panels. Playful dolphins and lumbering manatees surfaced to spend a few minutes in the sun.
The first destination was a favorite of seafood lovers. Cabbage Key, a 112-acre island accessible only by boat, is home to the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant. Built in the 1930s by mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart, the house morphed into a destination eatery in the early 1970s, when local fishermen launched the tradition of taping dollar bills to the walls to ensure they’d have the cash to pay for a meal even on a day when they made no money. Today’s visitors follow suit, scrawling their names and dates on legal tender and attaching it to available spaces on the screened-in porch that doubles as the main dining area. After a locally sourced meal of oysters, shrimp and stone crab claws paired with the bar’s signature cocktail, a Cabbage Creeper of rum, piña colada mix and coffee liqueur, diners meandered the grounds where a few sea turtles crawled out of the reeds to check out the visitors. More of the natural scenery was on display when the boat stopped at one of the sound’s uninhabited islands for an hour of shell collecting and swimming. But travelers made it back to the resort with plenty of time to check out the three swimming pools and two water slides.
Another Captiva day saw the beach goers floating on the calm gulf waters in rented inner tubes. The energetic crowd opted for jet skis and paddle boards. A beachside taco stand meant a short stroll for a beer and a bite before heading back to the umbrella shade or before hopping on bikes for a quick ride to the resort’s tennis center for an afternoon of pickleball.
For travelers of any persuasion, coming together on the beach to watch the sun go down is always a special moment, accompanied by tunes from a local musician who encourages the crowd to toss a shell into the water just as the light disappears. According to local lore, those who do so are guaranteed a return trip to Captiva, to do as much or as little as they like.
SOUTH SEAS ISLAND RESORT
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.